Nature conservation

Parks, reserves and protected areas

Nature and cultural heritage in river red gum parks

The forests of the Riverina are culturally and spiritually significant to Aboriginal people, and many places, plants and animals are immensely important to the local and regional communities.

The river red gum reserves contain wetlands of state, national and international significance, and support threatened flora and fauna species, and species that are protected under bilateral agreements with other countries.

To keep these forest ecosystems healthy, the river red gum forests must be frequently flooded. Environmental water delivery is an important part of this process.

Cultural heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in these forests or thousands of years. It is believed the forests along the Murray River were among the most densely populated areas before European arrival. They remain rich in Aboriginal cultural heritage and the local Aboriginal people have a strong connection to the forests and rivers. Aboriginal cultural heritage sites include burials, scar trees, oven mounds and middens.

The NSW Government is working with local Aboriginal groups to assist the transfer of the Werai and Taroo groups of forests to Aboriginal ownership.

Riverina and river red gum forest ecosystems


Bird hide at Mathoura

Bird hide at Mathoura

River red gums are an iconic Australian species of tree. The Millewa group of forests, together with the Barmah forest in Victoria, forms the largest continuous river red gum forest in Australia.

The river river red gum forests provide an ecosystem for a multitude of species, including some native animal and plants and ecological communities which are listed as endangered or threatened.

Of particular importance are:

  • five terrestrial and two aquatic endangered ecological communities.
  • fifty species of terrestrial fauna listed as threatened under Commonwealth and/or NSW legislation
  • significant breeding habitat for 18 migratory bird species listed under international agreements.




Bird watching on the wetlands in the Murray Valley National Park

Bird watching on the wetlands in the Murray Valley National Park

One of the most beautiful and ecologically important features of the river red gum forests is its wetlands.

Reflecting their highly significant ecological values and social, cultural and economic importance, the NSW Central Murray forests (Millewa, Koondrook and Werai forests) are listed under the Ramsar Convention of ‘Wetlands of International Importance’ in 2003, placing these wetlands on the world stage. Millewa is also an icon site managed under Commonwealth Government's The Living Murray program, which is the largest river and wetland restoration program ever undertaken in Australia (see below).

Environmental water


River red gum forests depend on reliable access to surface or groundwater and work will continue to provide these mighty forests with improved access to the water they need.

The NSW Government in conjunction with the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and a number of stakeholder groups have been supplying environmental water to these forests for more than 15 years. The Barmah/Millewa forests have had an annual environmental water allocation of up to 100 gigalitres for well over a decade. This water will continue to be available for the future.

The Millewa forest will also benefit from its status as a ‘Living Murray icon site’, which means it has been identified as a priority asset for environmental water delivery. The NSW Government has already recovered 220,000 megalitres of water under the Living Murray program, and is working cooperatively with the MDBA to manage water delivery to the Living Murray sites.

The MDBA, OEH and NSW Office of Water have been working together on major capital works that will assist the watering of these forests and wetlands.

Page last updated: 10 December 2015